Marissa Sheva Brings Runner’s Mentality To The Pitch
Sophomore midfielder Marissa Sheva is an anomaly. Penn State’s two-sport star is a refreshing change of pace in the age of specialization, bringing her track toughness to the soccer pitch.
Sheva, who hails from Sellersville, Pa., made her debut for Erica Dambach’s Nittany Lions last fall and immediately showcased what makes her such a valued part of the team. The 5-foot-3 Sheva tallied three goals and three assists on the way to the program’s first-ever national championship.
“Individual-sport athletes have a little bit of a different mentality, but she’s done a really nice job of combining the two, and that’s not easy,” Dambach said Tuesday. “I think she brings that drive — that internal motivation an individual-sport athlete has — into this team and drives the people around her.”
Not only can Sheva fly on the field, but she’s also a supremely talented distance runner on the Penn State track team. Sheva was the 2015 PIAA AAA Outdoor State Champion in the 1,600 meters, with a personal best of 4:44.73. She also captured the PTFCA indoor mile state championship twice while at Pennridge High School.
“I think that doing an individual sport taught me to calm my nerves a little bit more going into things that require me to perform on a bigger stage,” Sheva said. “Having the calmness going onto the field during a really important single-elimination game, I think that helps me, and having another calm face out [there] definitely helps the rest of the team as well.”
Sheva, who’s started 12 of the 18 matches she’s appeared in for Dambach this season, enters the NCAA Tournament with a goal against Illinois and an assist. She and classmate Charlotte Williams have provided a steady presence in the midfield throughout the year. The Nittany Lions (11-4-4, 7-1-3 Big Ten) will open their title defense Friday at 6:00 p.m. against the Patriot League champion Bucknell Bison at Jeffrey Field. The calm and collected mindset she takes on the track certainly translates to soccer.
“I think that distance runners are, in general, pretty mentally tough and I think that translates well to everything — especially soccer, especially postseason,” Sheva said. “We talk a lot about, ‘What’s the mentality gonna be if we go a goal down?’ and how to come back from adversity. I think that track prepared me well for that.”
She knows that when it comes to team sports, you need someone to step up and take the reins from a leadership perspective. Dambach mentioned that juniors Elizabeth Ball and Salina Williford have risen to the occasion, providing some added guidance down the stretch. Sheva concurs with her coach.
“I think that their voices are just huge on the field,” she said. “Whether they’re the captains or not, I think it’s really important to just have girls that are well-respected — that people look to to be using their voices on the field and really directing, encouraging, and empowering everybody.”
Sheva also knows that tomorrow isn’t promised right now, and the Nittany Lions will have an uphill battle if they’re going to make another deep run. However, she and her teammates have bought in to Dambach’s message of taking it one match at a time. There’s simply a different focus when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.
“When it gets to this point in the season, it’s not about you personally, it’s about the team. ‘What can I do for the team to get us another game, to get us to the next round?'”